It’s been some time since I’ve reviewed some of my favorite science fiction and fantasy shows on my blog, and I’ve seen some good stuff lately. So here’s my take on WandaVision, Star Trek: Picard, and His Dark Materials (Season 2).
Warning: There may be some minor spoilers in my reviews. And also, I’m going to nerd out.
As a kid, I was a huge fan of The Avengers comic books, so MCU movies have been special to me. But never in a million years would I have guessed a Scarlet Witch and Vision show would be so popular in the 21st century.
I always thought a human woman in love with an android was weird (and kind of creepy), but WandaVision makes it all seem believable. Even if you’re not familiar with Wanda and Vision, or even the Avengers movies in general, you would probably still enjoy it. All you need to know is that after the events of the movie Avengers: Endgame, Wanda and Vision find themselves in a sitcom reality. And that Wanda has telepathic/telekinetic powers and that Vision is a robot. I know, it’s crazy but all is explained in due time.
The series is fun and mind-bending. First of all, most of the nine well-written episodes were clever homages to sitcoms throughout television history with Wanda and Vision playing the leads. This may seem random at first, but, as I said, all is explained. They’re living in that sitcom world where the problems are humorously resolved in less than a half an hour. But wait. Insidious clues pop up indicating all is not as it seems.
The writers did a great job of sampling shows like I Love Lucy, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Full House, Malcolm in the Middle and Modern Family with a few nods to other shows like Father Knows Best, The Dick Van Dyke, The Office and more. To add to the authenticity of the reality warping, the first two episodes are in black and white to reflect tv from the 50s and early 60s.
I was also impressed with a number of performances by the actors: Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda; Paul Bettany as Vision; Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau; and Randall Park as Jimmy Woo. And especially fun to watch were Kathryn Hahn as wacky Agness and Kat Dennings as sassy Darcy Lewis. Due to the different realities of the storyline, the performers got to bend their acting chops in different ways and they made it look like they had fun.
Trying to avoid spoilers, but Evan Peters (who is fantastic in all his incarnations on American Horror Story) as Pietro/Quicksilver is a clever mind game the writers pulled on the audience. He played Quicksilver in the X-men movies while Aaron Taylor-Johnson played Quicksilver in the Avengers movie Age of Ultron. Different franchises, different realities. So the question is: Which Quicksilver is he? This casting choice is actually part of the plot. And again: all will be answered.
I didn’t have any real issues with the show. The goal was to just have fun, especially in the first few episodes. It does get darker as the series progresses, and concludes with a satisfying and emotional ending.
I had a blast getting addicted to this show, and I think it was due to trying to figure out what exactly was going on. I really hated to see it end. So, whether you are a superhero fan, a romance fan, a horror fan or something in-between, I highly recommend WandaVision.
Star Trek: Picard
I could be wrong, but I feel even if a person wasn’t familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation (STTNG), they would understand Star Trek: Picard. The ten episodes comprise of a continuous storyline that comes off like a fun space opera novel. Michael Chabon, one of my favorite contemporary novelist, wrote many of the episodes.
It’s pretty easy to catch on that Jean-Luc Picard is a retired and famous starship Captain of the space faring organization called Starfleet. But Starfleet has changed. Some decisions Picard made when an evil race of beings called the Romulans attack a space station on Mars haunts him. An android daughter of Picard’s dear android friend, Data—who long ago sacrificed his artificial life for the Captain—is in danger.
Picard assembles a team of vigilantes to journey through the galaxy and find Data’s daughter. This is where I felt the series seemed like a space opera novel, and one I would enjoy. Without being familiar with the series STTNG, a viewer would still sense the textured history the captain has and the friendships he has with some faces from his past.
Especially interesting to see from the annals of Star Trek history was Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco) the former Borg and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) from the Star Trek: Voyager series. Star Trek: Picard does a great job of giving interesting histories to these characters since the STTNG series ended. I mean, Hugh works on a Borg cube captured by Star Fleet? And Seven of Nine runs around the galaxy looking like Han Solo and operating as a space ranger? How fun is that?
Even someone not familiar with STTNG would feel the deep history of Picard’s encounters with friends from the past: Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and a dream version of Data (Brent Spiner). I felt Star Trek: Picard honored these characters in interesting ways that didn’t devolve into cheesiness or over-sentimentality.
I had always wondered how B4 fared after the end of the last STTNG movie, Nemesis. B4 (also Brent Spiner) was brought into the Star Trek franchise of that movie as a prototype of Data. Star Trek fans had a glimpse of hope that even though Data perished in Nemesis, this doppelganger would fill the void. His android brain was not quite as developed as Data’s but I felt that made for a good story. But alas, no more Next Generation movies were made and I never knew what happened to B4.
I thought Star Trek: Picard would somehow answer the question. And it did.
Even though a storyline involving Data and his type of android comprises the Picard series, B4 is written off with a “He broke. Too bad. So sad.” What! Brent Spiner is a fan favorite. He did appear a few times in Picard’s dreams. As an android, Data didn’t have to age (although I think he did give himself some grey hair in a future reality at one point). And, thanks to make up and CGI, Brent Spiner looked pretty darn good considering he first appeared as the mechanical guy in 1987. I get that it’s a hassle to wear that makeup (and the yellow contact lens) and I get CGI is expensive, but I secretly hoped Spiner as B4 would have made more of an appearance. Missed opportunity! Oh, well. Maybe season 2?
So don’t feel like you have to watch (or review) STTNG in order to enjoy Star Trek: Picard. I was pleasantly surprised this show does not feel like old Star Trek from the late 1990’s when the franchise was over-saturated and tired. Yeah, you have to pay for the streaming service, but Patrick Stewart as John-Luc Picard is always worth it.
His Dark Materials (Season 2)
After a poorly received movie, The Golden Compass (2007), the first season of His Dark Materials (2019) tackles the same said novel and was able to develop the complex story in a much more satisfying way. We finally get to the second novel, The Subtle Knife, in the latest season and we get to see Lyra and Will together and team up against the evil Marisa Coulter and the Mysterium.
The young actors who play Lyra (Dafne Keen) and Will (Amir Wilson) perform wonderfully for such challenging roles. It was also a treat to see Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame back as Lee Scoresby—a favorite character from the novels—and getting a much bigger role this second season.
The settings and special effects continue to be fantastic, and I was impressed how closely the show stuck to The Subtle Knife. I missed Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) and lorek Byrnison (Joe Tandberg) the bear. But these characters don’t appear in the second book all that much, so it’s just as well. Besides, McAvoy probably costs a pretty penny.
The sophomore season of His Dark Materials continues to adapt the books by Philip Pullman in a spetacular and satisfying manner. The series is on HBO, to which I don’t subscribe, but I purchased the entire season through Amazon Prime.